If you’re completely new to the world of ebooks, this post is for you. There are so many options available now that it can be confusing for newbies. Kindle, Nook, iPad! Which is the best for you? If you’re not at least basically aware of the consequences of your choices, you can end up with a bad experience. But not to worry! This post will give you enough background on ebooks to get started. I’ve broken it into two sections, for those who already own a device that they want to read ebooks on, and for those who want to get a new device for ebook reading.
A. WHEN YOU ALREADY OWN A DEVICE
This is the process I recommend for you if you want to read ebooks on a device that you already own. This might be your smartphone, iPad or other tablet, or an eReader that you acquired in the past.
1. Do Not Buy or Download Any eBooks Yet
eBooks come in different formats, and not every format can be read on every device. Before you spend any money buying eBooks, follow the next few steps. This will save you money, time, and confusion.
2. Learn Which Types of eBooks You Can Use
If you have an eReader (like a BeBook, Cybook, Sony Reader) that’s not tied to a specific bookseller, the best thing to do is to go to the website that sells that device and look in the specifications to find out which ebook formats it supports. Also look for support for “DRM” (digital rights management) because without it, the types of ebooks you can use will be further restricted. Most eReaders can read PDF and ePub files and some can read additional file types like Mobi, txt, and others.
If you have an eReader (like a Kindle, Nook, or Kobo) that is associated with a specific bookseller you won’t have to worry about file types if you only purchase ebooks from that specific store. However, the Nook and Kobo eReaders can also read PDF or ePub files from other sources.
If you want to read ebooks on your iPhone or iPad, you can use iBooks, which is built into Apple’s system. By doing so you can easily get ebooks in the same manner that you download apps. You can also read PDF or ePub if you get an app that can handle those file types. In addition to that, big booksellers like Amazon and B&N have iOS apps that will let you read their ebooks without having to own a Kindle or Nook device.
If you have an Android phone or tablet, you can read Kindle and Nook ebooks with their respective Android apps. You can also read PDF or ePub if you get an app that can handle those file types.
3. Install Software/Apps If Necessary
E-Ink eReaders like the basic Kindle and Nook eReaders don’t need apps. But if you want to read on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device, you’ll need an app for reading ebooks. The best one to use depends on where you’ll buy your ebooks. I have explained this in more detail in previous posts: Best eBook Apps for iPad and iPhone, Best eBook Apps for Android
4. Find Out Where Your Type of eBooks Are Sold
Here are the basics:
If you have a Kindle then you must buy ebooks from Amazon.
If you have a Nook you can buy eBooks from Barnes & Noble or any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks.
If you have a Kobo you can buy eBooks from Kobo or any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks.
If you have an iPad or iPhone you can buy eBooks from iBooks, use the iOS app from Amazon/B&N/Kobo, or any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks (check DRM requirements – you might need a specific app).
If you have an Android phone or tablet you can use the Android app from Amazon/B&N/Kobo, or buy from any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks (check DRM requirements – you might need a specific app).
If you have another eReader (like a BeBook, Sony Reader, etc) you can buy eBooks from any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks (check DRM requirements – you might need a specific app).
If you have an off-brand cheaper eReader, you can probably use PDF and ePub ebooks, but you might not be able to use DRM-protected files. It’s vital that you check the specifications for your particular eReader.
5. Get eBooks!
Once you’ve done all of the research and learning above, go forth and buy ebooks from your chosen book store.
B. WHEN YOU DO NOT YET OWN A DEVICE
This is the process that I recommend if you don’t yet own a device for ebook reading, or if you’re not yet sure which device you want to use.
1. Do Not Buy an eReader or Tablet First
Don’t buy anything until you have a basic grasp on the options available.
2. Consider eBook Stores
My recommendation is to first figure out where you want to buy ebooks. This will narrow down your device choices. For example, if you really want to buy most of your ebooks from Amazon, you should get a Kindle. (You can also read Kindle ebooks on an iPad, iPhone, or Android device with the Kindle app). Likewise, if you really want to buy your ebooks from Barnes & Noble, you should get a Nook. (You can also use an iPad, iPhone, or Android device with the Nook app). The same goes for Kobo. If you like buying things from Apple and would like to buy your ebooks through iBooks, you should get an iPad. If you’re the type of person who wants to buy from smaller ebook websites, you can pick and choose from a few different sites like ebooks.com, ebookmall.com, or diesel-ebooks.com, as well as others. They will be able to support a lot of devices with the main exception being the Kindle. However, the process isn’t as streamlined as when you buy a specific type of ebook for a specific type of device, like a Kindle ebook for a Kindle eReader.
3. Based on Your Store Choice, Consider eBook Readers
Let’s say you decided that you’d really like to buy all of your ebooks from Amazon. That makes it pretty easy because you can get any Kindle model that you want. (Note that Kindle is not synonymous with eReader. A Kindle is the type of eReader sold at Amazon.com.) The same goes for Barnes & Noble — just get one of the Nook models. If you would like more variety, you could consider getting and iPad or Android tablet. That’s a great choice because you can use ebooks from a variety of sources, and you’ll also have a fully functional tablet computer that you can use for web browsing, movies, or whatever else.
4. Buy Your Chosen eReader
Once you know where you want to buy your ebooks and what kind of device you want to use for reading, go get your eReader!
5. Install Software/Apps If Necessary
Depending on what kind of device you’ve chosen, you might need to install an app or other software. E-Ink eReaders like the basic Kindle and Nook eReaders don’t need apps. But if you want to read on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device, you’ll need an app for reading ebooks. The best one to use depends on where you’ll buy your ebooks. I have explained this in more detail in previous posts: Best eBook Apps for iPad and iPhone, Best eBook Apps for Android
6. Get eBooks!
Go forth and buy ebooks.
I hope this guide is helpful for ebook newbies. If you have any more tips for someone who is completely new to ebooks, leave them in the comments.
Like my eReader Review Roundup post, this is a gathering of reviews for tablet devices. There are other tablets on the market besides the ones I’ve chosen to include here, but I picked these because they are either made by eReader companies, or have solid eReading functions, or are the tablets that you typically find major electronics stores. In other words, they are the tablets that you’re most likely to use for eBook reading, in my opinion.
Apple iPad 2 Reviews
Engadget – “It might frustrate the competition to hear this, but it needs to be said: the iPad 2 isn’t just the best tablet on the market, it feels like the only tablet on the market.”
TechCrunch – “Let me sum all of this up in a simple way: the iPad 2, should you buy one? Maybe — it depends on a few factors. Will you want to buy one? Yes. Use that information wisely.”
PCMag – “The clear standout in the ever-widening sea of tablets, the Apple iPad 2 brings a slimmer design, faster processing, dual cameras, and FaceTime video chat to a tablet that already had a leg up on the competition.”
PCWorld – “The iPad 2 remains the tablet to beat, even though its improvements represent just a satisfying aesthetic and spec evolution over its predecessor. ”
CNet– “The iPad 2 refines an already excellent product. Its easy-to-use interface, vast app catalog, and marathon battery life bolster Apple’s claim to being the king of tablets. ”
Wired – “Skinnier profile shows mercy to your joints. Big performance boost makes apps, games and web browsing more zippy. Same $500 starting price and 10-hour battery life. Mediocre cameras make still photos look slimy. Thinner body makes physical buttons on the side a little harder to press.”
Nook Color Reviews
Engadget – “So, is the Nook Color worth your hard-earned cash? Well, we’ll say this — if you’re a hardcore reader with an appetite that extends beyond books to magazines and newspapers, the Color is the first viable option we’ve seen that can support your habit. Not only does Barnes & Noble have an astoundingly good selection of e-book titles, the company seems to be aggressively pursuing the periodical business, which is a big deal.”
TechCrunch – This page is specifically for the “Nook Tablet” not the Nook Color. Same basic deal though. Not a full review. TechCrunch doesn’t seem to have a full review on the Nook Color.
PCMag – “More than an ebook reader, less than a full-blown tablet, the Nook Color’s artful compromises make for a compelling, color reading experience that is ideal for both books and magazines.”
PCWorld – “Highlights of this premium e-reader include an intuitive, elegant interface and an LCD screen with minimal glare. ”
CNet– “Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color is a very capable color touch-screen e-book reader that offers much of the functionality of an Android tablet for half the price of an iPad.”
Wired – “Nook Color is the only ‘reader’s tablet,’ straddling dedicated e-book readers like the Kindle and multipurpose tablets like the iPad. I was expecting tradeoffs. I wasn’t expecting its advantages.”
Amazon Kindle Fire Reviews
Engadget – “The Kindle Fire is quite an achievement at $200. It’s a perfectly usable tablet that feels good in the hand and has a respectably good looking display up front. Yes, power users will find themselves a little frustrated with what they can and can’t do on the thing without access to the Android Market but, in these carefree days of cloud-based apps ruling the world, increasingly all you need is a good browser. That the Fire has.”
PCMag – “The first easy-to-use, affordable small-screen tablet, the Amazon Kindle Fire is revolutionary.”
PCWorld – “The 7-inch, Android-based Amazon Fire will appeal to those who buy books, videos, and music at Amazon, but it will frustrate those looking for a more versatile slate.”
CNet– “Though it lacks the tech specs found on more-expensive Apple and Android tablets, the $199 Kindle Fire is an outstanding entertainment value that prizes simplicity over techno-wizardry.”
Wired – “iPad killer? No, the Kindle Fire is not. And it doesn’t even match the iPad in web browsing, the one area in which its hardware should have sufficient performance to compete. But the press has definitely supercharged Amazon’s product launch with a level of hype and enthusiasm that would make Apple proud.”
Kobo Vox Reviews
This gadget is perhaps too new to have many solid reviews online, but I’ve dug up what I can:
Engadget – This is Engadget’s basic informational page about the Kobo Vox.
PCMag – A “Hands on” post, not a full review. “In fact, the fact that the Vox is an Android tablet serves as a rather stark reminder that Kobo’s strength is its application … inside the Vox’s social Pulse e-reading application, I didn’t want to leave.”
PCWorld – Not a real review. This is more of a news post.
CNet – Again, not quite a real review yet, just information.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Reviews
Engadget – “The conclusion we came to after using the Tab 10.1 Limited Edition mimics the conclusion we’ve drawn here: this is the best Honeycomb tablet to date, and lucky for you, this one’s available to purchase!”
PCMag – “The Verizon version of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 takes the thin, powerful tablet and adds blazing 4G LTE speeds, but it ratchets up the price as well.”
PCWorld – “Thin and stylish, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 hits all the right marks. And at 1.24 pounds, this is the lightest 10-inch-class tablet you can buy. ”
CNet– “Sleek, sexy, and light, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 gets as close to the iPad 2 as any Android tablet before it.”
Wired – “The trouble is that both hardware and software are rough around the edges. Honeycomb feels like Linux on the desktop before Ubuntu came along, and the Tab 10.1 itself feels like somebody made a toy plastic iPad. The screen stands alone as being quite excellent, but it’s not enough to save the rest.”
Motorola Xoom Reviews
Engadget – “Besides boasting what we consider to be the most complete and clearly functioning version of Android, the hardware which is packed inside Motorola’s tablet is really quite good. The tablet is fast and sleek, and while not exactly being really futureproof, the fact that you’ve got a path to a 4G upgrade is tremendous (and frankly, something no one else in the industry is offering).”
TechCrunch – “Few tablets have met with such widespread anticipation as the recently-announced Xoom. It is the closest anyone has come to an iPad equivalent for the Android set. I was impressed with the speed, design, and quality of the device, and although there are a few caveats, I came away optimistic for the new crop of Honeycomb devices that will follow this one.
PCMag – “The Wi-Fi Motorola Xoom is a solid Android tablet with Flash support, but it doesn’t measure up to the Apple iPad 2 in terms of app selection.”
PCWorld – “The Xoom is well-conceived and well-constructed, but some rough edges, a middling display, and a high price may deter early adopters.”
CNet– “The Xoom’s spec sheet is enough to make any tablet tremble, but the price is high and Google still has some work to do before its tablet software experience is as fleshed out and intuitive as Apple’s.”
Wired – “As Sly Stone said, the nicer the nice, the higher the price.”
Holiday shopping has (ridiculously) already started here in early November. I’m pretty sure that a lot of eReaders will be given as gifts this year, what with the newly released models and price competition. With that in mind, I thought I’d compile a list of useful reviews about popular eReaders. I will try and do another list about tablet-style devices later — this one is just for the newest E-Ink eReaders. (Update: see Tablet Review Roundup)
Kobo eReader Touch Reviews
Engadget — “For those looking for a device strictly for reading, the new Kobo is a nice little option. It’s small enough to slip into a pocket, can do more with a PDF than the competition, and at $129, it’s $10 cheaper than both the Nook and Kindle WiFi. There’s also nothing in the way of social functionality on the device, but we didn’t really miss it. Ultimately, however, the eReader Touch Edition has one fatal flaw: it’s not as good as the Nook.”
TechCrunch — “Superficially similar to the new Nook, but the Kobo is perhaps even simpler, and the form factor is slightly more book-like. If you don’t need 3G or the other perks of the Kindle ecosystem, and just want a straightforward e-book reading device, this Kobo could be a good match.”
PCMag — “The Kobo eReader Touch Edition brings a nice touch interface and a small footprint to Kobo’s ebook reader line, but its performance and design don’t measure up to its best competitors.”
PCWorld — “It’s rare to find an inexpensive product that also introduces innovation into its category. And yet that’s exactly what Kobo Books’ Kobo eReader Touch Edition does. The company’s third-generation e-reader, this model is the smallest and lightest 6-inch E Ink e-reader currently available.”
ZDNet — “Kobo’s new touchscreen-enabled ebook reader may actually beat the new Nook as the best dedicated ebook reader.”
Wired — “$10 less than comparable Kindle and Nook, making it the cheapest, smallest and lightest e-reading in the pack. Nicely motivates by projecting both the fun and sport of reading. Faux-quilted plastic back sacrifices ergonomics. Touch screen is sometimes slow.”
Nook Touch Reviews
Engadget — “The new Nook is a bit of an enigma, in a sense, simultaneously adding more features while attempting to return to the simple reading experience missing from tablets like the iPad and Nook Color. It succeeds on both accounts. All of the new features enhance rather than detract from the goal of reading, and they’re there when you want them and mostly invisible when you don’t. The social functions are about reading and reading alone — if you’re looking for a place to play Words with Friends, look elsewhere.”
TechCrunch — “After a few days with the new Nook I was hooked. It is a pure reading experience condensed into a device the size of a paperback and with a super-crisp e-ink touchscreen. The Nook is, in short, the best e-reader from a major player I’ve used thus far and is well ahead of its competitors in terms of usability and form factor.”
PCMag — “Thanks to plenty of upgrades and a laser-sharp focus on the reading experience, the second-gen Barnes & Noble Nook Touch Reader is our new Editors’ Choice for ebook readers.”
PCWorld — “I can’t say that the Nook is the absolute best e-reader available today, but it comes close. Nook gets marked down for its terrible button design and inconsistent contrast; and yet, it wins favor for its interface and touch navigation. Those factors, coupled with its light weight and long battery life rating, make Nook a solid choice, as long as you plan to use the touchscreen and not the buttons to page through your books.”
ZDNet — “This is a stripped, bare basics version of the Nook that would be ideal for students and anyone else on a budget.”
Wired — “By now, most everyone in your circle of friends has played with a Kindle and an iPad. Fewer have picked up a Nook. But I’d urge you to give this dark horse a shot.”
Amazon Kindle Reviews
Engadget — “If you’ve ever played with a Kindle, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the fourth-generation is one solid device. The hardware is well made, the processing is snappy and the screen is extremely easy to read. It is, however, sorely lacking in the bells and whistles department, with a renewed, almost one-track focus on reading.”
TechCrunch — (Video) “The first device Jeff Bezos showed off at today’s Amazon event was the diminutive Kindle Touch, a $99 e-ink device that should be on everyone’s Christmas lists this year. The Touch has an 6-inch, IR-based touchscreen and includes all of the features found in the ne Kindle models including the new X-Ray feature that adds research and information to any book downloaded from the Kindle store.”
PCMag — “The new Amazon Kindle rings in at a bargain $79 price, establishes the new class standard for affordable ebook readers, and still features the best ebook store on the market.”
PCWorld — This is a very simple overview for the 3rd generation. I could not find one for the current 4th generation models.
CNet — I couldn’t find a review specific to the newest Kindle models. This link gives you a list of all related Kindle reviews on CNet.
Wired — “Amazon’s new Kindles bring an updated hardware design to its family of popular black and white e-readers. There are different configurations — touch and non-touch, Wi-Fi-only, and 3G cellular data-enabled — all being sold at different prices, and all of them cheaper than the $200 Kindle Fire tablet. They’re made for people who don’t want the tablet; those who just want to read comfortably in a way they’ve grown familiar with, thank you very much.”
Sony Reader WiFi Reviews
Engadget — “There’s a lot to like about this new guy. The WiFi Reader has a lot of compelling functionality, including dual-touch pinch to zoom, handwritten note taking, audio playback and built-in access to public library and Google Books content. At $149.99, it’s also quite reasonably priced for a Sony reader, down $30 from the Sony Reader Pocket Edition (which, it’s worth noting, failed to include WiFi).”
TechCrunch — “Will the T1 do the impossible and overthrow Amazon and BN’s hegemonic hold on the eReader market? In all honestly, probably not, but a functional and stylish alternative can help keep innovation alive and the big guys on their toes.”
PCMag — “Sony finally comes down to earth with the Reader Wi-Fi, a $150 ebook reader that compares well with the B&N Nook Touch and upcoming Amazon Kindle Touch.”
PCWorld — “Price and design are the two biggest factors driving the e-reader market; and in the past, Sony severely dragged its feet on the former. But today the company has rectified the situation with the introduction of the newest Sony Reader Wi-Fi PRS-T1.”
ZDNet — “While there’s no compelling reason to buy it over the Kindle Touch, the Sony Reader Wi-Fi is a very solid e-reader.”
Wired — Does not currently seem to have a review of the WiFi T1 model.
According to these reports, the Sony Reader T1 uses a modified version of the Android OS. I wasn’t aware of that at all – I thought that was only used on more tablet-like devices. An anonymous hacker has figured out a way to get into the operating system and make it so that you can install Android apps. Now people who use this hack can install the Kindle app and read Kindle ebooks on it. Before this, that was only possible on devices that were expressly supported by Amazon.
The problem with this is that the Sony Reader has an e-ink screen, which was not designed for Android apps. Those, for the most part, are all designed for LCD screens like the ones you see on tablets such as the Motorola Xoom or Samsung Galaxy. E-ink was made mostly just to display the text of a book. Because of this, there is no real hope of turning your Sony Reader into a real Android device. But the idea that you can put Kindle ebooks on it is interesting, if you’re the type who wants to go against the rules just for the sake of going against the rules. Personally, if I wanted to use Kindle ebooks I’d just get a Kindle.